lunadelcorvo: (I will taunt you!)
[personal profile] lunadelcorvo
A few months ago, I met up with an old friend from way back in my early days in the SF Con & Ren Faire scene. It was so great to look back to the books we read, the things we valued... *enter needle screeching over the record* Turns out she'd gone far right GOP/Tea Party. The following is an open letter to her, and all those like her. (And yes, a few of you may know to whom this letter was originally penned, but I suspect even more know someone to whom you've felt similar sentiment.)
I’m not entirely sure why I am writing this, though I suspect it’s at least as much to clear my own mind as it is to reach you in any substantive way. I am sure you noticed that I removed you from my [social network]. I did so without any prejudice or malice, very little surprise, and only a sense (albeit a gratifyingly small one), of disappointment. I am not terribly interested in a long back and forth about it, but I suppose for the sake of our past, I thought I’d take the time to tell you why.

You think we have things in common because we have kids and gardens? I am certain we both know a good many people with whom we have nothing in common, nor would we wish to, that nevertheless have children and gardens. So let me clarify why I think we have nothing whatsoever in common: my family and I arrange our lives and make vital and significant life choices based on our conscious and considered dedication to combatting pretty much everything you seem to hold dear. (It seems the reserve is true as well, but that is purely surmise.)

Since you spoke of gardens, let me begin there. I have a garden to grow food. Happily, I have a few spaces and a bit of time left to plant some flowers, too, but the main project has been food. I garden so I can be sure that I will have healthy, chemical-free, organic food to feed my family. If I am lucky (I’m still new to this, so it’s hit or miss sometimes), I will have a bit extra so we can share it with friends, or exchange it for other things, like the organic honey a friend of ours makes in his urban apiary, or the promise of some veggies in midwinter from another friend who has perfected an indoor aquaponic garden (something that escapes me to date; but then, I won’t include fish in the system as I won’t raise animals for food, so that does complicate things.) I garden organically and sustainably, using rainwater, worms and compost.

And even more bizarre? Even though we surely don’t claim such a handsome income as you no doubt command, we don’t do all this to save money, or because we have to in order to survive. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. We structure our lives this way because we believe that our food systems are broken, that consumerism is a societal ill we choose to avoid, that our water usage is deeply irresponsible, and that fertilizers, chemicals, GMOs and factory farms are killing us and our world. We are also vegetarian for the same reasons, and because we cannot support either the environmental devastation or the inhumane practices inherent in factory farming.

My husband, who teaches philosophy, ethics, and business ethics, donates a lot of his time and energy (as do my son and I) to building, supporting, and promoting sustainable local urban agriculture, and encouraging people to break free of the corporate food monopolies.

Incidentally, the business ethics he teaches would doubtless horrify you, but they are foundational for both of us. He teaches and we believe strongly that corporations must be held accountable, regulated, restricted, monitored, and most of all, taxed (which they are not; let’s face realities), because history has shown and continues to show every day that left to their own devices, corporations will devour people and resources alike, destroy lives, exploit people and communities, and ravage ecosystems.

He teaches sustainability at all levels, along with alternate energy, industrial responsibility for climate change, the utter corruption of Wall Street, and so on. He teaches that the privatization of resources like water, utilities, food and agriculture by multinational companies is wrong, and companies that do so need to be stopped. He even goes for two weeks a year to teach these ethics in a third-world country, where the ravages of corporate greed and misconduct are more even visible than they are here at home. We are also both part of a new initiative to build sustainable and organic agricultural and waste disposal systems in one of Kentucky’s poorest towns (situated, not surprisingly, across from a mountaintop stripped by the coal industry so dear to the Republican and Tea party constituency).

Incidentally, you posted an article about corporations sending jobs overseas? I have problems with that too. But I condemn the practice because of the reasons corporations do it. I’ve spent time in places into which American industry has imported those jobs, and it’s not pretty. They do it to take advantage of workers in places where they do not have to pay minimum wages, the workers cannot organize, and where there are no health, safety, environmental, or ethical regulations to prevent them from boosting their bottom lines on the backs of human beings. They use force, deception, and threats to keep people working and prevent them telling anyone about their workplace conditions. They devastate environments, ecosystems and communities, knowing full well that the local governments cannot stop them, and our government won’t.

That’s exploitation, and it’s wrong. It is wrong to profit from human suffering, or by knowingly doing harm to other human beings. Yet that same Republican/Libertarian/Tea Party to whom you so clearly hold allegiance, instead of trying to work to combat such conditions world-wide, is trying to create those same conditions here by abolishing unions, removing minimum wage laws, removing regulation and handing out insane tax breaks so corporations can do as they please, and abolishing the EPA. You really think that doing all this will bring prosperity to America? No, it will bring exploitation, just as it has done where American corporations have taken their factories overseas. And it will bring environmental devastation, just as it has done around the world.

How about your screed on Capital Gains tax? You portrayed that as a burden on homeowners making a small profit on the sale of a home that’s increased in value. Either you’re stunningly ignorant of how Capital Gains tax really works, or you are being intentionally deceptive. Home sales can generate up to $250,000 profit per individual (500K per couple) without being taxed (thanks to a tax relief program that I would wager Republicans fought against). In reality, Capital Gains primarily taxes investment income, and that means Wall Street and stock market profits. It means corporations and big-money investors have to pay taxes on money they earn by buying and selling stock. Wow, that sounds a lot like ‘income,’ to me! And even so, it’s taxed at a substantially lower rate than income tax. But I am pretty sure you know this. Nevertheless, you seemed happy (very much in the manner of the NeoCon Right), to phrase it as though somehow you are championing the cause of the little guy, the average homeowner, getting shafted because he fixed up his three bedroom ranch. That’s bullshit, and I have a real problem with lies that try to hide the fact that Wall Street will say or do anything to protect their bottom lines.

I don’t know where you picked up your Ayn Rand, ‘lassez faire capitalism’ economic values. I always kind of knew you had country-club aspirations, but I also thought you had at least some sense of right and wrong. It’s funny you mention rereading the Darkover books. I was just thinking how strange it was that you seemed to have forgotten every bit of idealism you ever had. Remember how we both always felt we understood things a little more clearly than some, that taking a stand was something real and important, and that the ‘light’ was not always on the side of the entity holding power? Granted, we were both stunningly naive back in the day, but there is still value to believing that the right thing is worth not just fighting for, but making hard choices for. It’s worth giving up life in the castle and having pretty dresses.

I’m happy to say I’ve certainly wised up since then, but I do live my values. I live by the idea that tyranny, oppression, exploitation, deceit, and corruption are wrong and worth standing up to, worth fighting. From things as simple as blogging or the academic topics I write on, to the purchasing decisions and the lifestyle choices I make, I live my belief that every human being has value, and that society, if it is to have any meaning or value, MUST exist to ensure the common good. Society must reject the idea that might makes right, and power (or wealth, or privilege) can do what it wills.

That’s why I left the advertising industry, took a huge cut in pay, and went into academia. I am sure you know that leaving a business sector career for academics is certainly nothing one does for profit. But I stood at the edge of my life, and looked over it and I didn’t like what I saw. I couldn’t continue to use my time, my energy, my life to be a complicit supporter of a destructive corporate machine. It went against everything I believed. I looked in my son’s eyes, and I could not continue to spend my day trying to find ways to lie, to make people think nursing homes are happy places, that corn syrup and chemicals are food, that more fossil fuel-laden junk will make them happy and fulfilled. So I chose instead to learn to write, to join in meaningful conversation about what goes on in our world and in our past, and maybe try to open some eyes. I left the castle, left the pretty dresses, and chose instead to live what I believe. How about you?

Finally, I have to say, your Tea Party/Republican stance makes something of a joke of your claim to be pagan. Unless you live under a rock, you must see that the Tea/Republican Party is in lockstep with the Religious Right. The very foundations of the Tea Party are Christian Reconstruction and Dominionism. Pure Libertarianism may not, in theory, have a religious slant, but in reality, on the ground, it is deeply tied to the Christian Right. The remaking of Christianity into a Rand-ian, neo-Calvinist, pro-capitalist oligarchy is wholly thanks to the likes of Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, both Bush’s, Ron and Rand Paul, and too many cohorts to name here, to say nothing of the Religious Right extremists like John Hagee, Rod Parsley, Ron Luce, David Barton, Chuck Colson, Lou Engle, William Boykin, even Gary North.

I challenge you to research it, to really look deep. I challenge you to read the works of Rushdoony, North, or Barton and tell me the Tea Party and the union-busting, Medicare-killing Right Wing agenda is not the stuff of their fundamentalist, ‘Christian Nation’ wet dreams. Do you want a Christian Theocracy? Do you think for a moment that the party you seem to proudly endorse has room for anyone who claims Paganism? Do you think for a second that Palin would not cheerfully burn you at the stake if she could get away with it? Wake up!

I cannot believe you to be so ignorant or naive that you don’t see any of this. My freshman religious studies students can see it. My husband’s freshman business ethics and philosophy students can see it. My 10-year-old son can see it. That leaves me to conclude that one of two things applies. One possibility is that you really believe the party line you have espoused, and you really agree with the pro-corporate, anti-liberal position and the social and religious oppression it represents. The other is that you don’t buy it, you know it’s crap, and you know full well that you sold out (and ‘married well’ as you so baldly put it), for the corporate life with its big bucks, big house, and nice cars.

If it’s the former, I consider you to be a theocratic, bigoted, money-hungry corporate crony, whose claims of paganism are only the holdover you leave yourself so you can tell yourself you’re different, you’re not like all the others. In this case, I frankly don’t wish to know you. I have plenty of cut-throat capitalists in my own backyard, thanks; I don’t need to import them via the internet. On the other hand, if it’s the latter, and you’re a closeted pagan liberal sell-out, afraid to stand for what you believe lest it cost you your BMW, that makes you a knowingly complicit hypocrite, and I still don’t wish to know you.

And therefore, the break. I hope there remains, somewhere within you, the sense of justice and inherent rightness that I once saw. If it ever decides to surface and take the wheel, look me up. Meanwhile, good journeys, but we are not going anywhere even remotely similar. And yes, there may, even at this long remove, be a trace of disappointment in my reaction to discovering your ethical and political positions. If so, I suppose it means at least one of us hasn’t lost our sense of idealism, for after all, what is disappointment but idealism proven false?
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Things I need to remember:
• Asking for help is not, as it turns out, fatal.
• Laughing is easier than pulling your hair out, and doesn't have the unfortunate side effect of making you look like a plague victim.
• Even the biggest tasks can be defeated if taken a bit at a time.
• I can write a paper the night before it's due, but the results are not all they could be.
• Be thorough, but focused.
• Trust yourself.
• Honesty, always.

Historians are the Cassandras of the Humanities